November 29, 2022

Basics of Pruning Grapevines


Grapevines require regular pruning in order to ensure a healthy harvest. Proper maintenance of grapevines is essential to ensure proper plant shape, size, and productivity. Effectively maintaining the foliage and facilitating sufficient fruit production each year will require some skill. Additionally, the variety of grapes and the trellis or arbor system used will determine the extent of pruning that is required. 

In the first two years, it is important to determine which training system to use and to prune grapevines accordingly. Some of the most common types of pruning are spur pruning, cane pruning, and head training.



When Should Grapevines Be Pruned?


Dormant pruning should be performed starting in Spring (February through March, or even as late as early April). If pruned too early, a hard frost has the potential to damage the canes and buds.

When growing grapes, one of the most important aspects of maintenance, grape pruning, is often overlooked. This leads to vines that produce numerous weak shoots and small, poorly ripened clusters. Because of the way grapevines grow and produce fruit, growers must prune annually.  Fruit is only produced on shoots growing from one-year-old canes. Therefore, healthy new canes must be produced every year to maintain annual production of fruit.  

Remove as much of the old wood vines as possible (approx. 90%), followed by the stems that grow from the lower part of the vine trunk.  Afterwards, cut the shoots that have grown during the previous year, leaving at least 3 buds per shoot, as these will be bearing grapes. Pro tip: brightly colored ribbons or cloth strips can be used to identify fruiting canes.

If the canes are more than 2-inches in diameter, using a pair of loppers will do the trick. For smaller canes, pruning shears can make a clean cut. Thicker vines can be trimmed off by a hand saw.

For more information on grapevine maintenance, please visit our Grapevines FAQ page.